On August 26, MMTC, along with 25 other national civil rights and public interest organizations, filed the following letter with the Federal Communications Commission, urging the Commission to adopt multilingual EAS rules that could save lives in times of crisis.
August 26, 2015
RE: Review of the Emergency Alert System (EB Docket No. 04-296); Recommendations of the Independent Panel Reviewing the Impact of Hurricane Katrina on Communications Networks (EB Docket 06-119)
Dear Chairman Wheeler:
The 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina will be August 29, 2015. The days leading up to, during, and after this natural disaster demonstrated the importance of multilingual emergency communications. For the over 100,000 Louisianans not proficient in English, their world went dark that day and remained that way for many days. These residents were unable to get answers to questions such as, “Where do I go to find shelter?” “How can I find my children?” and “Is the water safe to drink?” For the terrified multitude taking refuge on rooftops as the water rose, there was often little hope for survival.
The penalty for an adult’s or child’s lack of English proficiency must never be death.
In many cities with large Latino, Korean, Chinese and Vietnamese communities, few or no stations are broadcasting in those languages. When Hurricane Katrina decimated New Orleans in 2005, the city’s only Spanish language station was damaged and could not return to the air for eight critical days. During those eight days, over 100,000 Latinos had no landline service, no cellular telephony, no television, no radio, and no print media in their language. The city’s Vietnamese communities also went dark and many of these residents had no means to communicate their need for medical assistance. In a time of desperate need, finding medical facilities, shelter, food, and potable water was a matter of life and death for tens of thousands who were not fluent in English. [click to continue…]